Diagnosing the Social Media Blues

Ransom Riggs

Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics just identified a brand-new condition: Facebook Depression. It's apparently most acute in kids and teenagers, who according to the experts are more susceptible than grownups to to obsessing over their rivals' friend tallies or feeling like they don't measure up when confronted with boastful status updates or photos of the in-crowd having a great time without them. "It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down," said one of the researchers, "because Facebook provides a skewed view of what's really going on."

But it's not just kids who are suffering -- just a few days ago, the New York Times wrote about a new app that blocks tweets with certain hashtags from your Twitter feed. It's called Not At SXSW, and its website reads: "Not at South by Southwest? Never mind! Install our extension for Twitter.com to hide updates from friends who are there!" The same sort of backlash happens every year during Sundance, too. Call it the adult version of Facebook Depression, or FOMO -- fear of missing out. It can apply to much more than just festivals, of course; I've seen friends who live in cold climes beg those of us who don't to stop boasting about our warm weather on Facebook and Twitter.

Whether it's Facebook Depression or Twitter-related FOMO, there seems to be a rash of new diagnoses cropping up that involve social media of one sort or another. What do you think -- is this just the diagnosis du jour, or are Twitter and Facebook really messing with our minds?